June 17, 2019 | 78° F

Matches provide RU glimpse into Big Ten future

Photo by Srinidhi Bellakonda |

Redshirt freshman 174-pounder Phillip Bakuckus went 3-1 in dual action this weekend for Rutgers, including a 6-0 decision against Maryland’s Anthony Gardner yesterday during the “Grapple at the Garden.”

Competing against two future Big Ten opponents in one weekend and participating at a prominent venue in Madison Square Garden impressed sophomore 197-pounder Hayden Hrymack.

For the Rutgers wrestling team, it is something the Scarlet Knights must get used to for next season.

“I think we responded pretty well,” Hrymack said. “You saw the Rutgers wrestlers come out and want to battle.”

The Knights (5-2, 2-2) went 2-2 in dual action this weekend, but their most important match of the four resulted in a victory.

Rutgers defeated Michigan State (5-3) on Saturday at the Northeast Duals, 20-18, in large part because of the Knights’ younger grapplers.

Five underclassmen won against the Spartans, with the most impressive victory from sophomore 157-pounder Anthony Perrotti.

Perrotti captured a 10-7 decision against Michigan State’s Ryan Watts, who entered the match as the No. 19 wrestler in his weight class, according to Intermat.

Perrotti’s and redshirt freshman 174-pounder Phillip Bakuckus’ decisions provided Rutgers a 20-9 lead against the Spartans.

It was enough for the Knights to deliver a victory against their future Big Ten opponent despite dropping their last three bouts of the dual contest.

Head coach Scott Goodale felt Rutgers could have won by a bigger margin.

“Our focus is going to be consistent in everything we do,” Goodale said. “… Even though we’re young, we’re going to have to engrain in their mind consistency and showing up every day and sticking it out. We had an opportunity to blow that match open.”

The team victory against the Spartans is something Bakuckus felt was important for the younger grapplers, who make the transition into the most competitive collegiate wrestling conference in the country next year.

But he also admitted it did not really cross their minds when they took the mat.

“I think we’re more focused on who we’re wrestling, I don’t think we thought about who we were wrestling was a Big Ten opponent,” Bakuckus said. “I guess it was more of who was in the moment.”

Rutgers dropped its previous match of the day to No. 11 Virginia, 22-9, its first ranked opponent of the season.

The dual loss has little implications on this year or future seasons, as Virginia (8-2) competes in the ACC.

The Knights’ performance yesterday at MSG does.

Rutgers handily defeated George Mason), 29-10, in its first dual action of the Grapple at the Garden, as eight Knights earned victories. The lone two losses came from non-regulars in Goodale’s lineup against George Mason (4-5).

Rutgers’ next opponent, Maryland, gave the Knights a chance to go 2-0 against future Big Ten opponents.

Sophomore heavyweight Billy Smith’s second-round tiebreaker loss to No. 7 Spencer Myers gave the Terrapins a 19-18 victory.

Hrymack believed the Knights earned a team victory.

“I think we’re definitely better than they are, it’s just we didn’t have all the pieces in all the matches go our way,” Hrymack said.

Goodale believes the performance was how he wants his program to compete in the future, as Rutgers will compete on a weekly basis with the talent level of Michigan State and Maryland (4-3).

This weekend was just a glimpse.

“That’s life in the Big Ten, that’s the way it’s going to be,” Goodale said. “We need to get used to it, and not everything is going to go according to plan.”

For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @Bradly_D. For general Rutgers sports updates follow @TargumSports.

By Bradly Derechailo

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